I hope this gets published before midnight because today, July 31, is my birthday. And it's not just any birthday, I'm now officially the same age as Jack Benny --- again. It's my second year of being 39. Okay, enough with the bull, I'm forty. Whoo hoo...
I was born in what has been called the most tumultous year America has known: 1968. In that year, America faced: the Tet Offensive, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson's adamat refusal to stand for re-election, the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., The Beatles self-titled album The Beatles more commonly known as "The White Album" because of its blank white cover, a psycadelic Broadway comedy known as Hair, the utter destruction of the South Vietnam city of Hue, the introduction of Rowan and Martin's Laugh In, the seduction of Dustin Hoffman by Anne Bancroft in The Graduate, pop artist Andy Warhol is shot in his studio by Valerie Solanas and to top it all off, Elvis Presley dressed up in a black leather jumpsuit on NBC to make a triumphant return to the music business and gets a whole bunch more girls' panties in a bunch.
WHEW!!! If that isn't enough to get you started. Consider that in 1968, gasoline only cost forty-nine cents per gallon and the average price of a house was still only five digits before the decimal point.
But as I look back over the last forty years, I see that America has lost itself. That first sense of loss came forty-five years ago when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I still consider that moment the turning point for America. It was a downhill slide and 1968 was the result.
Except that the slide hasn't stopped. Here we are, forty years later and we're fighting among ourselves over a war in a foreign land. Whether we should be there or not is academic, just as it was in 1968 and the problem now, as was then, we have no clear exit stragety. We were winning the war in Vietnam until Walter Cronkite went over there and came back with his ultra-liberal anti-war commentary. Forty years later we have newer and better sources for the information coming out of Iraq and so the fighting at home is much more heated but equally as divisive. I guess that's what Osama bin Laden was trying to accomplish. Looks like he succeeded.
The economy is teetering on foreign oil, just like it was in 1968. You'd think that in 40 years, we'd have learned something from the oil crisis of the 1970's and done something about it. But, no. The 20-somethings of 1968 are now actually running Congress and they are just as stubborn and bull-headed as they were back then, only now they have power to go with it. Stubborn people really make bad politicans. Arrogant ones make for worse.
Those same 20-somethings that are running Congress have children who are even more misguided about how the world works than their parents were. Even worse, they are the ones who are preparing to step into the seats of Congress that their misguided parents currently hold and they are even less knowledgable about current world events. Perhaps we are too far removed from the generation that united as one nation under God and fought the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese.
I remember as a child living in a very small town in Kansas. We didn't worry about child molesters. We would go out all day riding our bikes and playing down by the river. I had friends whose dad was a stock car race driver. We used to pretend we were racecar drivers on our bikes. We even tied huge Hefty garbage bags to the backs of our bikes, rolled them up into a little ball and stuck them in the space between the back of the banana seat and the metal frame that held up the back of the seat. Then we would take off down the street pedaling as fast as we could then reach back and flip the bag out of it's stowage area deploying the parachure so we could coast to a stop. There were days in the summer when we were gone all day, no one knew where the hell we were and didn't worry, so long as we were home when the street lights began to come on.
We had homecoming weekend and the whole town turned out for it. There was a carnival on the square downtown with merry-go-rounds and a ferris wheel that when you were sitting at the top, you could see over the courthouse and into the front window of Cook's Department Store. The whole week before was repleat with all sorts of events leading up to the Homecoming Parade on Saturday morning. On Thursday night was the Homecoming Pageant where prominent people in the city would select the Homecoming Queen. Friday night was the Big Game and it was always with our archrival down the road. Saturday morning was the parade. It came down Madison Street and turned onto Seventh Street. There were children running everywhere and everyone was having a great time. After the parade was over, the carnival opened for the day and no one went home until sometime Saturday night. Talk about fun.
This was the same town where I spent July 4, 1976 -- America's Bicentennial Celebration. The town was all decked out and there was a giant event at the Armory building. Our next door neighbor made two huge cakes for the party. One was a three-foot tall Liberty Bell cake. She even used frosting to write the words and make the crack. The wooden mounting bracket was made by my dad out of styrofoam and covered with the same brown frosting that covered the cake. The other cake was a two-by-three foot American Flag cake. It was actually several sheet cakes all cut and wedged together then covered with frosting. That night was the biggest fourth of July fireworks show the town ever had. We all went to the fairgrounds and "ooh"ed and "ahh"ed the night away.
That was my childhood -- at least the part I want to remember. The rest of it was a bunch of people getting divorced and dying and moving and having no friends. I can't say I enjoyed high school. It was just a time in my life I endured and made it through as best I could. College was the same way. When I woke up and realized I was an adult, I left Kansas behind and moved to California. I figured that I couldn't go back to the little home town with the Homecoming parades -- the girl I had a crush on had married one of my childhood friends and is now a nurse with kids of her own. I'm really happy for her. But I often sit and wonder what might have been...
I've been in California for ten years now and I'm still the same person I was when I got here. I still continue to be amazed at and amused by "city people". I still long for Fourths of July with really big fireworks shows. I still wish I could see a homecoming parade. I often yearn for a quiet little town out on the prairie.
But I have to keep an eye out for road ragers, child molesters, mother rapers, father stabbers, and father rapers. A lot has happened in 40 years. It's a lot of things I wish I had time to address. Thank you for letting me share some of who I am with you. I hope it wasn't too boring. I figured it would be better than ranting and raving about whatever it is that I rant and rave about.
Happy Birthday to me. I hope we all get to have at least 40 more.